3 Risks of Dehydration

Do you drink enough water?

There are differing recommendations as to just how much water you should drink daily….half your body weight in ounces, one litre for every 50lbs of body weight, 8 glasses per day, etc.  Regardless of which recommendation you ascribe to, the message is that it is important to remain hydrated and consistently drink enough water each day.

 

The recommendation to drink water does not expire as we age.  In fact, it may well become even more critical as we age! Seniors need adequate fluid intake as much or more as their counterparts.  There are a few key reasons why dehydration can have an even more severe impact on the elderly than on younger people.

 

3 water glasses on a table

Falls Risk

Being dehydrated can lead to feeling dizzy or lightheaded.  While a young person may be able to stumble and quickly regain their balance, an elderly person may feel lightheaded and stumble, but not catch themselves and suffer a fall. Falls are a serious risk among the elderly, and dehydration is a risk factor for falls.

 

Most seniors know someone who has suffered a fall and then had severe mobility impairments afterwards. No one wants a fractured hip!  While it may seem extreme, failing to drink water increases the risk of falling, which can lead to fractures and reduced mobility. It’s not a risk worth taking—so drink up!

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

If someone is not drinking enough, it also means they are not voiding as frequently either, and that can allow bacteria to accumulate in the urinary tract.  More frequent urination can flush out bacteria before it has the opportunity to grow.

 

UTI are particularly risky in the elderly since they present differently than in young people. When a young person has a UTI, they become acutely aware of burning pain and the need to urinate almost constantly. Those symptoms often do not present in the elderly.

 

Instead, sometimes the first symptom of a UTI in the elderly can be extreme confusion or delirium.  In such cases, an antibiotic can treat the UTI, but the delirium or confusion can take quite a while to clear.  Delirium can be highly stressful for the person who is delirious; it is also very tough on family members. There’s a high risk of hospitalization associated with delirium and UTIs.

Bladder Incontinence

Speaking of bladder health, drinking water is one of the best ways to maintain bladder health and retain urinary continence.

 

Many seniors limit their fluid intake as a way to limit their trips to the bathroom. What they don’t realize is that this strategy may backfire on them.  Our bladders can hold quite a bit of liquid, but only if that liquid is diluted.  If you drink lots of water, the toxins from your kidneys are highly diluted because there’s lots of water flushing through.  If, however, you’re dehydrated from limiting fluid intake the fluid passing through the kidneys becomes highly concentrated.

 

Concentrated urine irritates the bladder and initiates the urge to urinate frequently. Drinking more water to dilute the urine will allow the bladder to hold more and need to be emptied less frequently.  No one wants to lose continence or bladder control and failing to drink enough increases the risk of bladder incontinence.

 

It’s not a risk worth taking—so drink up!

 

It’s never too late to start good hydration habits!  It’s a healthy-living habit that we can all aim to improve together. Encourage your senior loved ones to drink more water, and set an example by increasing your own fluid intake.

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